Greece is fac­ing no con­fi­dence vote on Mace­do­nia name deal

● Dis­pute has roused na­tion­al­ist sen­ti­ments in both coun­tries

The Scotsman - - World News - By MAR­GARET NEIGH­BOUR

The prime min­is­ters of Greece and Mace­do­nia faced po­lit­i­cal storms at home yes­ter­day – two days af­ter reach­ing a his­toric deal to set­tle a decades­old dis­pute over Mace­do­nia’s name.

Greece’s Alexis Tsipras faces a vote of no-con­fi­dence in his gov­ern­ment, while Mace­do­nia’s Zo­ran Zaev is con­tend­ing with the re­fusal of the coun­try’s pres­i­dent to sign off on the deal if it’s ap­proved by par­lia­ment.

Mr Zaev and Mr Tsipras have agreed that the for­mer Yu­goslav re­pub­lic should be re­named North Mace­do­nia, end­ing a dis­agree­ment that had pre­vented it from join- ing in­ter­na­tional in­sti­tu­tions such as Nato and had poi­soned bi­lat­eral re­la­tions since the early 1990s.

But the dis­pute has roused strong na­tion­al­ist sen­ti­ment in both coun­tries. Crit­ics on both sides of the bor­der were fu­ri­ous, ac­cus­ing their re­spec­tive prime min­is­ters of con­ced­ing too much.

Greece has long de­manded that its north­ern neigh­bor change its name, say­ing the term “Mace­do­nia” im­plies ter­ri­to­rial claims on its own north­ern prov­ince of the same name – the birth­place of the an­cient war­rior king Alexan­der the Great – and usurps an­cient Greek her­itage and his­tory.

Op­po­nents in Greece ob­ject to any use of the term “Mace­do­nia” in their north­ern neigh­bour’s name.

Crit­ics in Mace­do­nia, mean­while, see any mod­i­fi­ca­tion of the coun­try’s name as a threat to their na­tional iden­tity.

In Athens, Mr Tsipras faced a di­rect chal­lenge to his lef­t­led coali­tion gov­ern­ment’s sur­vival af­ter main op­po­si­tion New Democ­racy sub­mit­ted a mo­tion yes­ter­day for a no con­fi­dence vote.

“I have an obli­ga­tion be­fore the Greek peo­ple to try to avert the mort­gag­ing of our coun­try’s fu­ture with an agree­ment that is detri­men­tal to our na­tional in­ter­ests,” New Democ­racy leader Kyr­i­akos Mit­so­takis said.

Mr Tsipras has a four-seat ma­jor­ity in the 300-mem­ber par­lia­ment, but the name deal has led to a rift within the gov­ern­ment it­self. The stance of de­fence min­is­ter Panos Kam­menos, who heads the coali­tion’s ju­nior part­ner, the rightwing In­de­pen­dent Greeks party, will be cru­cial.

Mr Kam­menos said be­fore the deal was an­nounced that he would op­pose the agree­ment in a par­lia­men­tary vote, which would leave Mr Tsipras de­pen­dent on sup­port from po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents to rat­ify it in par­lia­ment. The de­bate on the mo­tion be­gan yes­ter­day evening, and a vote is ex­pected by Saturday af­ter­noon at the lat­est.

Mean­while in Mace­do­nia, Mr Zaev was faced with a re­fusal by the coun­try’s pres­i­dent, Gjorge Ivanov, to sign off on the deal if it is rat­i­fied by par­lia­ment. Such a re­fusal would de­lay im­ple­men­ta­tion of the deal, which is ex­pected to be signed this week­end.

If the pres­i­dent re­fuses to sign, the deal would re­turn to par­lia­ment for an­other vote.

Up to 1,500 peo­ple held a peace­ful protest against the deal out­side par­lia­ment in the Mace­do­nian cap­i­tal of Skopje on Wednesday, chant­ing “Traitors!” and blow­ing whis­tles. Greek op­po­nents of the deal planned a protest in Athens on Fri­day, when Mr Tsipras had been due to brief par­lia­ment on the name deal.

0 Peo­ple protest against Mace­do­nia’s pro­posed name change

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